Monday, February 28, 2011

War. huh. what the hell it's good for, absolutely nothing

I'm watching Anderson Cooper and the same dickwads from
eight years ago are on there, (wolfowitz and wesley clark)
how we should invade libya or give arms to the rebels or
set a no fly zone. Clark mentioned that he doesn't want
troops in there until there is legal support from the UN.
Of course the US had UN resolutions against Iraq that supported
removing Saddam, yet now 'War is Good'. grrrrr.

If the USA is going to attack Ghadafy, the congress should pass
a declaration of war. People that are for it now can't say later
they didn't vote for WAR, they voted for war. Declare war, say
the aim is to take Ghadafy out of power, then the 6th fleet sweeps
all aircraft out the sky over Libya and drops an LGB on daffy duck.

This video says it all

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oil, Oil everywhere, i'll take me a drink.

Jerry Pournelle has a nice short essay about the craziness
going on around the world. Just to quote the end:

I long ago concluded that we are not capable of guarding the liberty of the people of the Near East, and that we ought to develop our own energy resources. I see no reason to change my views, although it will be far more expensive now. It will only get more expensive in future. We need to drill for oil, build nuclear power plants, and develop natural gas. Those ought to be our first priorities. Once we have energy we can use it to build those green facilities that we are told will save the planet, but if we cannot save ourselves, we certainly cannot save the planet.

I like reading JP probably because I agree pretty closely with
what he says, and he's able to say it without stupid or offensive
jokes. He was against the Iraq war from the beginning, I was
lukewarm for it until it started, then I felt the war should be
supported without being lukewarm.

Where we agree most strongly is on energy. The lunacy of sending
billions of dollars per month to countries that would nuke us if
they could get away with it is astonishing. Having to watch every
oil industry cycle where the price goes up and then crashes, each
time more of the US oil industry is destroyed and we end up importing

Energy is the key. We've got a few trillion left on our mastercard,
we should be building up energy self sufficiency. If the dollar is
worthless at some point, imported energy will be prohibitively
expensive and it might be too late to stop the final spiral down
to 19th century agrarianism, with internet. (very little travel,
and what does occur happens by slow train) "The sheep look up" by
John brunner type outcomes. Or is it Stand on Zanzibar?

Part of the problem is politicians and people enjoy the point in the
cycle when everything is crashed, and gas is $1 again. All the
alternative energy industries reset back to zero, and people go
back to buying hummers (not the good kind). I'm with the greenies
slightly in thinking that fuel prices need to be higher than 90 cents
per gallon. One way to do that is now that oil is $100/bbl again,
setting an import tax on oil to keep a minimum price, somewhere
between $50-$80/bbl, and apply if for natural gas as well to keep
nat gas prices north of $3.5/cu ft.

That will make nukes look cheaper, and solar look cost effective
in some areas, or at least it won't totally kill the US energy
industry every 5 years.

Some other things are still needed of course, convert all trucks
to run on natural gas. Build nukes and clean coal,etc. But anything
we can do to keep money in the US will help build the long term

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coon skin and Muamar hide; makes a pair of jump boots just the right size*

The Gomorgans ask why we don't oblige Muamar Khadafy
and make him a martyr. President Reagan tried in the 80's,
I don't expect anything to be tried now, maybe another speech or two.

Ghettoputer does make the point that Khadafy looks like either
like Jack Nicholson after a rough night, or a sand people from
star wars. I vote sand people.

*from an AFROTC running cadence, or Jodie, I can't remember it exactly
various animals attack, then make a pair of jump boots just the right
size, until the last verse we meet up with Muamar. He was an asshole
murderer in 1987, and he's still an asshole murderer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Kindle, old books

Amazon was nice enough to send me a new kindle to replace my dead one.
It's been dead for a while, and I had given it up as a wasted $400.
I finally got around to calling them, and they agreed that the old kindle
was dead and shipped a new one here to Mexico, and are even paying the shipping to return the old one to the USA. Amazing Amazon.

The only disappointment was the shipping email said they were sending a
kindle 2, but a kindle 1 showed up. The whispernet doesn't work outside
the US, with a kindle 1 I still need to connect up to a computer and
drag and drop the files. (What drudgery! he complains; instead of being
stuck in the wilds of mexico with just books in espanol to read...I can
buy any book I want with just a cable)

I'll probably start with "the big short" by Michael Lewis, and a book
by Seth Godin, who's blog is a dally read; he's like the Army, he
generates more ideas before breakfast than most people generate all day.

I did cheat and download a book from project gutenberg, just to have
something immediately, and it's the "Three Musketeers". You can't
beat a book by Alexandre Dumas for quick excitement, but the book has
changed since I read it as a boy, now I see Michael York in every scene,
the memory of the movie has overwritten my memories of the book.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rainy day, planes trains and apocalypse

Here in Southern Mexico it's been raining continuously for 3 days.
It's cool, not cold, getting down to around 60 F, but it looks
cold and miserable so it feels colder. Reading the interwebs:
Egypt, good luck, congratulations, etc. Hopefully the radicals
won't take over and the worse thing they'll chant outside the US
Embassy will be "Serious knee injury to the Great Satan".

I can see high-speed rail is back on the drawing board. I really
like trains. It's fantastic in Italy,if you live within walking distance
to a train station, you can go from your house to anywhere in Northern
Italy in just 3 hours without a car. It works perfectly in a small
country with nuclear power, everything is all electric, if the price
of oil goes to 400/bbl, train tickets stay the same while airlines
go out of business. (Italy doesn't have nukes unfortunately)

I've taken trains all over europe, the longest run I took was from
Milan to Napoli. 400 miles and 5 hours, which wasn't really that
bad because you're going not to an airport an hour outside of town
and you don't have to be there very early, so a 5 hour trip is 5

Key things that make trains successful:
- train stations are downtown
- trains are on a separate network then roads, no crossings
- passengers separate network from freight

What makes high speed rail successful:
- high speed trains are on a separate network from other trains
- all distances are within normal airplane travel time, one day travel
is possible if unpleasant
- it's all electric. at some oil price point, high speed rail will
be more efficient if the electricity is coming from coal or nukes.

France is most prepared for the future, with all their major cities
linked by nuclear powered high speed rail, when the next oil shock
kills the airline industry they'll still be ok for internal travel.
I would be ok with emulating france, creating local high speed networks
in the usa with new nukes at the same time to power them.

What I would do if I were emperor, I'd start to build local routes
of less than 400 miles with the nukes to power them and spend money
on research for even faster trains using maglev to build the cross
country routes.

There are two similar length routs (400 mi vs 387 mi) from Milan to
Naples and New Orleans to Dallas, that's about the limit I could be on
a train and still make a meeting on the same day. I found a report
that estimated the building cost for the tracks, two way tracks on
elevated cement roadway, at 20MM euros per km, which is around
$40MM per mile. A 400 mile route would cost $16 Billion.
Or a better route to start with would be the triangle between
houston-dallas-san antonio, that loop would around 720 miles, or
$29 Billion. That triangle route has lots of traffic, lots of people
moving from downtown to downtown.

The purchase of trains versus the purchase of aircraft is a wash. I doubt
we'd save much on fuel costs if you include the cost of a nuclear power
plant to power these things, but we should build them so that we have
availability of travel. We made it through the last crash with some
part of the oil industry left, but I don't see how we can make it through
an infinite number of these crashes. When prices reach $150/bbl again next
year, the economy is going to crash again, then the oil industry. We're
really just starting to ramp up now, after another crash we won't ramp up
at all, prices will just march straight back up again because production will
really be in decline. As the economy circles the drain demand destruction
will kill the price of crude because no one will be traveling.

The reason I think we should be doing this I'm starting to think it's too
late for scrubbing the budget, we're using the credit cards to pay the
mortgage, we should probably build something so that after the crash people
can still travel without having to take a pack-mule.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Irish eyes ain't smilin'

During the peak of the financial crises a couple of years ago,
when it seemed possible that the entire banking system could unravel,
I was in Bucharest for a week. I was having lunch with some Romanians
and they were asking me what was going on in the USA, their pensions
were in AIG. I gave a "I'm sure everything will be fine" that I didn't
believe and felt glad that I had wired some money to Europe the week
before, I thought the dollar was going to continue sliding.

I apparently suck at financial analysis because I had sent the money
at the peak of pessimism at 1.55 eurusd, then sent most of it back at
the peak of european fear last year at 1.25. Doh. (not even doh with
exclamation point, just doh.

Someone who doesn't suck at financial analysis is Michael Lewis from
Vanity Fair. I wanted to buy his book 'the big short' in houston last
year, but I was already burdened down like juan valdez' mule and couldn't
take a hardback book with me. A lot of content from that book is online,
including the story of AIG's trading group as told to Mr Lewis by insiders.

It was good that we didn't let the Romanian's lose their pensions, but
they could have done it without making The Goldman Sachs whole, or providing
a windfall to a guy that was betting against the housing ponzi scheme
instead of screaming about the problem from the rooftops. His story
is told in The Big Short and in a really excellent excerpt we get most
of the story in "Betting on the Blind Side"

That guy Dr Burry is a genius and he deserves to get paid, but very few people
put the whole problem together like he did, and certainly no one in
the government figured it out. (I could see it was a bubble, I knew
that the mortgages were being sold off as bonds from reading 'Liar's
Poker', but I had never heard about CDS' and CDO's before 2008)
Hopefully next time someone sees Armageddon coming down the pike, they
won't just buy CDS's against meteor strikes. ("so if a 100 m tall wave
washes us away, you have to pay $2MM? I'm rich bitches. But don't tell
anyone if they don't buy my newsletter.")

I also like ML's article on the Irish disaster where the government guaranteed a bunch of bankster money, putting the irish people on the hook for a few year's worth of tax revenue instead of just dumping the bondholder's
overboard like the more sensible Icelanders did.